Review: Power Girl: Bomb Squad trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Knowing that DC Comic's grand relaunch arrives in just a few scant weeks, it's hard not to see certain titles as just marking time for their rebirths or cancellations. Judd Winick's Power Girl: Bomb Squad is ostensibly a tie-in to Winick's Justice League: Generation Lost; the ties here are better than in that series' other companion, Booster Gold: Past Imperfect, but still I'm skeptical how much Power Girl adds. Bomb Squad's approach is more to my liking than Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray's previous take on Power Girl, but the plot's both thin and decompressed, hence the sense that this is mostly filler until the end.

[Contains spoilers]

Palmiotti, Gray, and artist Amanda Connor's much-acclaimed Power Girl stories can best be described as "fun loving"; there was superhero action, but also a bunch of Power Girl Kara Zor-L hanging out with friend Terra and helping a high school loner make some friends -- not silly, necessarily, but with a humorous bent. Winick's Power Girl is still sarcastic, and her banter makes up much of the humor of the book, but Winick approaches things much more straightforward -- her villains are certainly tougher, with no sense Kara will sweetly turn enemies into allies as she did at the end of Palmiotti and Gray's stories.

Also, with no slight intended to Connor's boisterous, cartoony, and uniquely original take on the DC Universe, apparent newcomer Sami Basri absolutely knocks the art out of the park in this book. His work is still loose enough to depict Power Girl's funny moments, but he also draws rather photo-realistic faces that, especially with Kara herself, display marked seriousness at key moments (see, for instance, the funeral scene). Basri is next to work on the DC Relaunch's Voodoo after Power Girl, and that makes my interest in said book that much greater.

Yet, while I might appreciate Winick's more serious approach to Power Girl, precious little actually takes place in this book. The first issue mostly follows alongside the beginning of Generation Lost; the second and third are an over-long fight with Power Girl's new enemy C.R.A.S.H.; the fourth sets up Power Girl with a new status quo and headquarters; and the fifth and sixth are another elongated fight scene. Within these pages there's drama and story growth -- Kara loses her company, mourns the death of a friend, and gains a sidekick, with guest appearances by Mr. Terrific, Booster Gold, and Batman Dick Grayson -- but it's shoe-horned in two of six issues with too much space given over to rudimentary punching and kicking.

Power Girl's main foe in these pages is Generation Lost's Maxwell Lord, and Winick makes a slick transition from Palmiotti and Gray's run to his own by having Max essentially dissolve Kara's research company; Winick ties off one hanging thread from the previous books by having Max kill the employee who's ex-husband might've become Power Girl's enemy. I felt, however, that Winick's wiping the slate in this way did the Power Girl character a continued disservice. I mentioned in my review of Power Girl: A New Beginning that, despite Kara owning a scientific research firm, she seemed to known nearly nothing about said research, contrasted with Mr. Terrific in James Robinson's Justice League: Dark Things touting Power Girl's extensive scientific knowledge.

Now Winick -- with no harm intended, I'm sure -- not only removes Kara from the company, but also saddles her with a techno-geek sidekick, as if to further suggest this character can't be both brawny and brainy. I know the upcoming DC Relaunch Batgirl remains controversial, but hopefully one thing it will achieve is to combine the above elements. Superheroic women tend to be brawny, with someone else doing the thinking (Power Girl, here, and my much-beloved Manhunter Kate Spencer, I have to say, for another) or "geeky" and in-the-shadows (Oracle and the Question Renee Montoya) -- maybe the "new" Batgirl can epitomize both Power Girl's flamboyant brazenness and her partner Nicholas Cho's technical know-how all in one.

There's nine more issues of Power Girl to go before the end of this series and the DC Comics relaunch. Likely I'll be there for it, both as a general fan of Judd Winick's other work and for whatever ties to Generation Lost may be down the road, though admittedly I don't expect much. Max Lord appears on screen here more than he does in Booster Gold: Past Imperfect, but we don't learn more about Lord's overall plan than what's recapitulated by Power Girl in Generation Lost, and indeed those events are something that could just as easily have happened off-screen as to be shunted to Power Girl: Bomb Squad. With the end in sight, I'm skeptical Winick can really bring anything more to the series; rather I expect more of the same -- which is, not to downplay this, at least a serious and generally respectful take on the character -- before the conclusion.

[Includes original covers]

Next week, we're returning to the Bat-verse with Red Robin and Bruce Wayne's return home. Be there!
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15 comments:

  1. I'm not sure what this trade covers, both in terms of issues and content (I read all of JL:GL and the PG tie-ins in a couple lazy afternoons), but I think you'll enjoy the next volume much more, both for its tie-ins that add entirely new aspects to Max's plan, as well as for the later stand-alone stories that are just over the top fun.

    Shame it's not out until February, according to Amazon.

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  2. And that's if at all -- previously solicited pre-relaunch trades are dropping like flies lately. But hopefully this one will come out because of the Generation Lost tie, and glad to hear it's got more relevance than the first.

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  3. @CE: Which trades are being dropped? I only know of 'Booster Gold: The Life and Times of Michael Jon Carter' and Doom Patrol. Is there anything else?

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  4. Doom Patrol is dropped? Oh, thank you sooo much DC. I feel so rewarded for buying the first two volumes!

    I suppose REBELS: Starstruck is also dead in utero now too.

    Great, thanks, awesome (overturns table and exits room).

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  5. R.E.B.E.L.S. sold better than Doom Patrol, so I have some hope that the last trade will come out in December as scheduled. I didn't know they had cancelled the 9th Booster Gold TPB, though. Maybe DC decided to collect Giffen and DeMatteis' last 5 issues along with Jurgens' Flashpoint tie-in arc instead.

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  6. well R.E.B.E.L.S was solicited yesterday. As for the Doom Patrol trade, it's still listed on the DC website to be released 24th August. And you can still pre-order it on various websites. Booster Gold trade we havent heard any information on, other than it popping up on amazon.com and now sitting on amazon.co.uk...so i doubt any of these trades are dead in the water.

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  7. Doom Patrol: Fire Away might still be listed on some websites, but DC officially cancelled it this week:

    http://www.comiclist.com/index.php/lists/dc-comics-extended-forecast-for-08-17-2011

    You're right about Booster Gold: The Life and Times of Michael Jon Carter. It may have popped up on Amazon, but DC never actually solicited it, so they might have decided to replace it with a bigger volume instead of simply cancelling it. That's what happened to the fifth Hitman TPB, at least.

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  8. Thanks for the link. That is dissapointing. Not that I was planning on buying it. But still, R.E.B.E.L.S was also a low selling monthly and i really hope that one doesn't get canned.

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  9. More's the pity on that Doom Patrol trade. My concern is we'll start to see more of that -- "Ah," someone at DC thinks, "they don't need that final [Booster Gold/Power Girl/Red Robin/Gotham City Sirens/Justice Society/etc.] trade since the universe is starting over -- they can just read these books fresh!" Hope not, hope not.

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  10. If you're right about that "they don't need this" thinking then DC may as well be publicly saying that the books were putting out right now (before the 52 relaunch) don't matter. The caveat is that Batman and Green Lantern books are the exception due to their strong sales.

    I mist admit I do find myself attracted to the books that are in danger of cancellation because they are more likely to have a proper ending.

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  11. Well, the first collections of the post-reboot material won't be out until may or later (at least, that's what it looks like now). So until then, DC has to collect *something*, right? Hopefully the remaining 9 issues of Booster will be collected in a single trade!

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  12. huh... what happened to JSA All-Stars: The Puzzle Men (1401232973)? It's still on the DC website, but suddenly gone at Amazon.

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  13. Now that's too weird -- that book is solicited for order this month. They can't possibly be pulling it prior to pre-orders, can they?

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  14. Meanwhile, DC announces a new JSA series by James Robinson. Yay, of course, but this plus cancelling JSA: The Puzzle Men would seem to be at cross-purposes.

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  15. I just took a look at DC's updated shipping information, and they cancelled JSA All-Stars: The Puzzle Men indeed:

    http://www.comiclist.com/index.php/lists/dc-comics-extended-forecast-for-08-31-2011

    Now I'm officially worried about R.E.B.E.L.S., which sold 6,000 less than JSA All-Stars as a monthly series. I can only hope it fared better in the collections market.

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